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Calabasas- Malibu Fire Declared Contained

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Malibu-Calabasas fire--which charred more than 13,000 acres, injured six firefighters and destroyed six houses and four mobile homes--was finally declared fully contained Sunday at 6 p.m.

Fire officials said they expect the last hot spots of the fire, which began last Monday, to be extinguished some time today.

Elsewhere in Southern California there were several new fires reported Sunday, and by nightfall, not all had been contained. But none was nearly as destructive as those that hit the area last week, and improving weather conditions helped firefighters get the upper hand.

Diminishing Santa Ana winds gave respite to those battling a 600-acre brush fire north of San Bernardino on Sunday and reduced the threat of further flare-ups.

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The San Bernardino fire was apparently started early Sunday when a campfire burned out of control and was carried by gusting winds. But as the winds died down later in the day, U.S. Forest Service crews were able to keep the blaze from spreading and damaging structures, fire officials said.

Although several structures were threatened, prompting some evacuations, no serious injuries were reported. Fire officials predicted complete containment by early today.

In Westlake Village, about 50 firefighters quickly contained a three-acre brush fire near the Las Virgenes Reservoir shortly after noon Sunday. Fire crews from Los Angeles and Ventura counties fought the blaze, using two Super Scooper aircraft and three helicopters.

Early-morning winds in Sherman Oaks knocked power lines into a palm tree, sending flaming fronds onto the roofs of two homes in the 14000 block of Valley Vista Boulevard, Los Angeles fire officials said. Three firefighters were treated for minor injuries at the scene.

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The Sherman Oaks fire caused an estimated $220,000 damage.

The threat of more brush fires is expected to drop considerably as the Santa Ana winds diminish today to about 25 mph from a high of about 40 mph Saturday, weather forecasters said.

Firefighters will also be aided by a slight chance of sprinkles in the mountains today.

“For the next four or five days we are not expecting any strong Santa Ana winds for Southern California,” said Curtis Brack, a meteorologist at WeatherData Inc., which provides forecasts for The Times.

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Brack said there is even a chance of snow today on mountains above 5,000 feet.

In Ventura County, more than 150 firefighters who descended on the rugged hills south of Santa Paula were able to corral a brush fire within a few hours Sunday afternoon, keeping it to less than 200 acres. No property was damaged, and only one person was injured--a reserve firefighter who was treated for heat exhaustion at Santa Paula Memorial Hospital and released.

Investigators had not determined the cause of the fire Sunday but said it appeared to be of suspicious origin.

Meanwhile, in Ventura, officials continued to seek clues in the arson fire that blackened 360 acres in the ridgelines above City Hall on Friday night, forcing the evacuation of scores of homeowners. Arson investigators said they found what could be a clue at the spot where the fire began in Grant Park above the city’s downtown, but they declined to elaborate.

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Investigators have released few details on the Ventura fire because they do not want to let the arsonist know what they have learned, said one fire official who asked not to be identified.

Ventura Police Officer Jack Richards said he saw a car leaving the area where the fire started while he was nearby on the set of a television show. But he did not get a good look at who was inside, and the people in the car are not considered suspects, he said.

“I made that report because I was the one that saw that vehicle, but it was far away and I couldn’t see enough of the vehicle to give a description,” Richards said. “It was in the area right about the same time, though.”

The fire in San Bernardino County began about midnight Saturday in the foothills north of San Bernardino, closing California 18 west of Big Bear Lake for most of the day. The fire spread to forest land, where firefighters confronted it with 15 hand crews, 74 engines, three helicopters and five bulldozers.

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Police warned residents in the North Park area of San Bernardino County of the approaching fire, prompting an evacuation of several residents to nearby Golden Valley Junior High School, said Ruth Wenstrom, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service.

At one point, the fires came close to several structures, but firefighters got a break when shifting winds pushed the flames away from the buildings and into a small canyon, she said.

The only reported injury in that fire came when a newspaper photographer suffered a strained back and some scratches after jumping into a ravine to avoid fast-moving flames, Wenstrom said.

In Riverside County, a vehicle fire near the town of Rubidoux scorched about 200 acres of low scrub and grass just north of California 60 before being contained about noon, said Capt. P. Andrew Avila of the U.S. Forest Service. That fire was quickly extinguished, he said.

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Near San Diego, rain also helped tame blazes in the Torrey Pines State Reserve and at Otay Mountain, where 14,720 acres were burned.

Times staff writer Miguel Bustillo and correspondents Scott Hadly and Jason Terada contributed to this story.


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